Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Catwoman Review

Catwoman is a bad movie, a real stinker, and everyone knows it. I resisted seeing the flick for a time because such universal condemnations of turkeyness are usually correct, but occasionally they're wrong. Hudson Hawk is a prime example. A pet-project of Bruce Willis', I loved it, but it was pretty much dismissed by everyone else. Maybe now is the time for a Hawk re-appraisal. If you haven't seen it, go check it out. Sure it's silly, but it's a comedy, it's supposed to be a bit silly. But anyway, I'm getting side-tracked- Catwoman, everyone said it was bad but I had to see for myself, just to be sure. Sadly, everyone was right. But why does it reek so bad?

The first and most apparent problem with Catwoman is that it's not really Catwoman at all. Even if you've never read a Batman comic this will be obvious. Catwoman, as we all know, is Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. If you want to see a good Catwoman movie, get Batman Returns and then fast forward it to every scene Pfeiffer is in- there's your good movie. Instead, in this turkey, we get the "differently talented" Halle Berry playing someone called Patience Phillips- strange, since Catwoman's name is Selina Kyle. This is a strong hint that the pretentious one-name director, Pitof, should never have been allowed to make this film. It also shows that DC Comics needs to keep a tighter grip over the creative control of their characters. Catwoman = Selina Kyle. Simple. I was also a little thrown by the casting of Berry, as Selina Kyle's character is white, but I'm prepared to overlook that. There was talk of casting a black actor to play James Bond and it just doesn't seem right- if you want to have a black spy character, or a black Catwoman, why not create your own instead of changing a character that's been around for so long? No doubt accusations of racism will be levelled at me for thinking that white actors should play white characters and black actors, black characters. Wouldn't it have been equally stupid to cast a white actor as, say, Blade?

Okay, so we have a Patience Phillips character. We also have a movie that takes between 40 and 50 minutes to actually introduce us to Catwoman. That's way too long for a set-up. Twenty minutes is tops to set-up the story. When we do get to see this strange character called Patience (not Selina), she's wearing a costume that, at best, can be described as ridiculous. Again, it's not Catwoman's costume by any stretch of the imagination. You want to play with the costume a little, fine- Tim Burton did it in Batman Returns to superb effect, giving the traditional outfit a slight twist- but you don't go and change the outfit completely for something so stupid. When Catwoman does get going she turns out to not be a cat-burglar at all (did anyone involved with this movie even know who Catwoman is?) and she has these weird super-powers. Luckily for her, her Cat-god given powers involve being able to play basketball really well. Obviously, we all know how fantastic cats are at shooting hoops.

Aside from the horrible butchering of a well-known character (maybe movie makers need to remember that there's a reason why these characters have lasted decades in comics- there's nothing wrong with the way they've been written up to now) the movie suffers from some pretty shoddy CGI, even when none is required. One scene involves Catwoman sliding down a narrow gap between two buildings, her claws scratching the walls to slow her descent. Seems like a fairly easy stunt to set up with some basic wirework but Pitof instead opts for unrealistic CGI. The same can also be said for an acrobatic fight-scene between Catwoman and some pump-action wielding burglars. Yeah, she scurries around the room and up and down walls and generally leaps around avoiding getting shot- but it's all computer animated. A couple of fight choreographers from Hong Kong and some wire-work and you'd have the beginnings of a fabulous action sequence- we get a bad cartoon instead. Bad CGI is one of the things that really brings this film down- a lousy plot, wooden acting and awful dialogue are things that can be excused if the action-quotient is sufficiently high, but former Visual Effects Supervisor Pitof lays on the bad effects thick and heavy when there's absolutely no need for it. We get a fair bit of Halle Berry's avatar leaping around the rooftops like a cat when what we really should have had was Halle Berry or her stunt double on wires leaping through the city. Strangely in her anti-climatic battle with Sharon Stone at the end of the movie, Catwoman's amazing agility seems to desert her and we're left with a yawn-inducing fight. A bit of girlish hair-pulling would have livened the battle considerably. The one place in the movie where CGI might have been preferable, even the cheap CGI in this film, is to replace Berry's appalling hip-swinging walk. She might have been trying to move like a slinky cat, but she actually looked like a cheap hooker.

So, let's catch up- Catwoman has the wrong name, the wrong costume, is the wrong colour, doesn't do what comic-Catwoman did, she has super-powers where Catwoman had none and the effects are poor indeed. The thing I cannot understand is why this was even called Catwoman- it's patently not a film about the Catwoman character. Feline-Chick or Cat-Girl sure, but not Catwoman. What this is, is a completely unengaging snoozefest with no zip or zing to it. Go see Batman Returns instead.

BTW, this is what Catwoman looks like.
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